Everyone is talking about investment fees these days. There are ads on the radio, television, and online… there are podcasts, websites, blogs dedicated to low-fee investing… there are also books, magazines and research studies… all focused on one thing… how much the average investor pays in fees while saving for retirement.
But very few people are talking about the effect investment fees have on retirement itself. Mostly they talk about how fees impact you as you save for retirement, but very few mentions what happens if you continue to pay high fees as you enter retirement.
Fees definitely have an enormous impact on how much you can save for retirement. The average mutual fund fee is 2.35% in Canada, and that’s the average, there are lots of situations where the fee is even higher. The effect of this fee on a lifetime of savings and investments is enormous!
But what if you’re close to retirement? What is the impact then? Arguably the effect of investment fees on retirement planning is even greater than any other period.
Fees have an enormous effect on retirement planning because by the time we’ve reached retirement we’ve already saved up a huge nest egg. Unlike the accumulation phase, where you have limited assets in the beginning, when it comes to retirement, you’re starting with a huge amount of investment assets. This makes the impact of fees enormous, especially in early retirement.
The problem for retirees is that investment fees are hard to spot, hard to find, they’re almost hidden by investment providers, whether that is intentional or not. I’ve seen this on countless investment statements I receive from clients. Based on the statement alone you would NEVER know how much they’re paying in investment fees each year.
This isn’t an isolated issue, it’s a problem that many, many retirees face. Low-fee investing is a relatively new option in Canada. If you were investing 10-20+ years ago there just weren’t as many options to reduce your investment fees.
Many retirees who have high-priced investments are shocked (and somewhat saddened) to learn exactly how much they’re paying each year. It’s not their fault, this information is hard to find and not readily available to investors.
To figure out how much an investor is paying each year usually requires some digging. Mutual fund codes vary by fund and fund class. Sometimes fees can vary by 1% or more for the same mutual fund depending on the class.
But once you know how much you’re truly paying you can start to see the impact it will have on your retirement plans. There are two main effects that high fees can have on retirement, and the impact can be substantial.
Managing finances in a relationship is hard isn’t it? Financial issues are one of the most common factors leading to divorce. Two different people can have very unique views on money and partners in a relationship are no exception.
Everyone values money a little bit differently. We all spend money in different ways. You might prioritize good food while I might prioritize expensive clothes. Couples have different priorities when it comes to money and if those aren’t communicated then its easy for this to cause resentment, anger and frustration between partners.
My wife Sue and I have been managing our money together for 10+ years and I feel we’re pretty successful at it. We still have disagreements, and we each manage our money completely differently, but we have a good system in place to ensure we’re communicating regularly about our finances.
Recently Sue and I were on the Because Money podcast talking about how we manage money as a couple. Sue and I talked to Sandi Martin and John Robertson about a few of the things we do on a regular basis to make money less stressful for us as a couple. You can listen to the whole podcast, but I’ve summarized a few of the main things below.
It’s the new year! Time to kick start your finances!
This ten day routine will help you shift your finances into high gear. This routine is aggressive, ambitious, and a bit challenging. This routine will cover all the basics of a good financial routine. Having a routine for your money is one of the best ways to improve your finances this year.
If ten days seems like too much (and it probably is!) then consider spreading these steps over ten weeks or even ten months to make things a bit easier. The key is to find a pace that works for you. It’s better to take a bit more time if it means you’ll stick to your new routine.
If it seems daunting then consider pairing up with a friend, co-worker, or getting the help of a financial coach. At PlanEasy we offer custom financial coaching & advice for our clients. As a new client, we’ll create a 12-month program tailored specifically to you and your goals. If you struggle with your financial routine then a bit of coaching & advice might be exactly what you need to improve your finances this year.
You may have noticed a new term starting to creep into the mainstream financial media, that term is FIRE, and you might be wondering, “What the heck is FIRE? And how is it related to personal finances?”.
FIRE is an acronym that stands for Financial Independence/Retire Early. The basic idea is that if you pursue FIRE you can eventually stop working for money. You can be financially independent. You can do anything, retire early, keep working, volunteer, basically you can have more freedom.
The idea is that with enough savings/investments you’ll eventually reach the point where you can live off your investment income indefinitely. Once you reach this point you’re considered financially independent, you no longer NEED to work for an income, and can retire to a life of leisure (although you may choose to continue to work, change roles/professions, start a business, or volunteer).
While the concept of early retirement sounds amazing, it does take quite a bit of focus and determination to get there. To reach FIRE it requires a high savings rate, very high. The typical financial advice given to the public is to save and investment approximately 20% of your net income (part of the simple 50/30/20 budget). But to reach financial independence retire early you need to save more, much more. To reach FIRE you need to have a savings rate somewhere in the 30%-70%+ range. The higher your savings rate the faster you can stop working for money.
FIRE is made easier with an above average income. With a high-income basic expenses are covered and it becomes more about managing lifestyle inflation. People who pursue FIRE limit their lifestyle inflation to maintain a high savings rate.
FIRE is also possible with a below average income, but requires a lot of creativity to reduce basic expenses. This may include house hacking, avoiding car ownership, and more extreme lifestyles. To reach financial independence retire early with a low-income you need to live an alternative lifestyle.
Reaching FIRE is one of those extreme personal finance goals, it’s a goal that isn’t for everyone.
Even though the end goal sounds appealing it requires a lot of hard work and dedication along the way. Reaching financial independence retire early means living way below your means for the rest of your life. It’s a lifestyle more than it is an end goal. It’s a lifestyle with a lot of freedom, but it’s also a lifestyle that requires a lot of control.
If you’re able to control your spending, and save a large % of your income, then reaching financial independence might only be a few years away.
To find out roughly how far away from FIRE you are you can download our FIRE calculator. It’ll help you estimate how many years from FIRE you are based on your net-income, current expenses, and existing savings.
We’ve used our FIRE calculator to create four examples of how to reach FIRE.
Whoever invented the ‘latte factor’ or ‘avocado toast’ created a very skewed sense of how to save money. Saving money by cutting back on coffee, restaurants, going out, vacations etc are very difficult ways to save.
They’re difficult because they’re very visible and often very social occasions… plus they’re a lot of fun, so why cut back there?
Hidden ways to save, on the other hand, are the best ways to save. Saving money on things that no one sees, or cares about, makes it easy to save.
This is the secrete to saving money, save money where no one notices.
What someone considers a “hidden way to save” will be different from person to person. Some people really care about certain things, it all depends on what they value. Maybe they really value the car they drive, the house they live in, or only eating free range/grass fed/organic foods, but for many of us these are easy ways to save money, if you do it right.
These are five hidden ways to save money. No needs to know how much you pay for these monthly expenses and saving money in these area’s can be very easy.
Lots of us track our spending. Tracking your spending is one of those foundational personal finance habits. It’s not something that comes naturally. This is a habit that requires work. Sure… you can reach your financial goals without tracking your spending, but it makes it harder, and why would you make things harder?
Tracking your spending doesn’t have to be difficult. At PlanEasy.ca all of our clients, including myself, use a simple online form to track our spending. Make a purchase, pull up the form, enter the amount and the category and hit submit. Easy.
All that data gets put in a neat little summary. It shows you the typical things like spending month-to-date, spend vs budget, total spend, etc.
But one of the neat things we included in our summary is how many transactions you make. How many transactions you’ve made over the last 30 days. The average number of transactions per day. How many “no spend” days you’ve had and your longest “no spend” streak.
I’m a firm believer that a lot of our spending is driven out of habit. You walk by a certain store, coffee shop, restaurant and out of habit you go in and you buy something.
Spending habits are easy to form. There is a clear “cue, routine, reward” cycle. The cues are everywhere in the form of advertising, marketing, sales, promotions, etc. The routine is simple, pull out your credit card and buy something. The reward is that immediate satisfaction you get from your purchase. It’s addictive.
Spending habits are hard to break. The way to break them is not by tracking how much money you spend, it’s by tracking how many times you spend money. It’s by tracking how many transactions you make each month, week, or day.
The more transactions you make, the more you reinforce your spending habits, and the harder they are to break.
Instead of focusing on how much you spend, try focusing on the number of transactions you make. Try to go for “no spend” streaks of 2, 3, 4, 5+ days in a row, or try going cold turkey and do a no spend month!
As you start to reduce the number of transactions you’ll also start to break those spending habits and you’re definitely going to be spending less each month.